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The various types of containers for dry, refrigerated and liquid cargoes have to comply with international requirements for road, rail and sea transportation. In this blog we discuss the most common regulations applicable, and explain how containers are inspected.


ISO standards -
ISO(International Standards Organization.) standards applicable to new containers involve technical recommendations concerning dimensions and tolerances, dealing specifically with the interchangeability of containers on a global scale.

These standards are not mandatory, but are almost universally complied with. The ISO standard 1496 deals with freight containers in general but also covers the different types of containers, such as dry-freight containers, thermal containers and tank containers.

International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC), 1972
(Entered into force on 6 September, 1977. As of 1 June 1998 it had 64 contracting States, representing 62.16 per cent of world tonnage.)
Due to the rapid increase in the use of freight containers and the development of specialized container ships, in 1967 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) started a study of the safety of containerization in sea transport.

In December 1972 the International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) was signed in Geneva. The aim of the convention was to ensure a high standard of safety for workers during handling and transportation of containers, and also to facilitate international trade by providing uniform international safety regulations.

The CSC made the approval of new containers mandatory and was a welcome means of regulating the construction and safety of containers.

The convention set out procedures for the safety approval of new containers, to be enforced by the States party or organisations authorized by them. The evidence of approval, a Safety Approval Plate, was to be recognised by all when granted by a State party, a system which would allow the containers to move with a minimum of safety control formalities.

It is of interest to note that the CSC was not introduced for the safety of the cargo carried in containers, but for the safety of the persons working around them.

The role of the Classification Societies - The Classification Societies were already engaged in container certification when the CSC was introduced. Most contracting governments chose to authorize these Societies to approve the design, inspection and testing of new containers.( A pioneer some thirty years ago, Bureau Veritas is still a world leader in certification.

of containers, with a market share of 60 per cent of all types of new container approvals, and a similar share for re-certification of tank containers. The rest is largely divided between Lloyd’s Register and American Bureau of Shipping. Both Bureau Veritas and Lloyd’s Register play an important role in the inspection of tank containers. Other Class Societies may have been delegated authority by the various governments, but have only minor world market shares.)

CSC Safety Approval Plate - The CSC Safety Approval Plate is a permanent, non-corrosive, fireproof plate, required to measure no less than 200mm x 100mm. It contains information about the country of approval, approval reference, date of manufacture, manufacturer’s container identification number, maximum operating gross weight, allowable stacking weight for 1.8g(g=9.8 metres/square second, acceleration due to gravity), transverse racking test load value, and may also indicate the end and side walls strength if required. The plate also has room for the month and year of the first examination of new containers and for subsequent examination dates.

The CSC requires the container to have an approval reference on the Safety Approval Plate. For instance, the approval reference “GBLR 8653 975”, means that the container is certified by Lloyd’s Register under authority of Great Britain, 8653 is the approval number and 975 is the date of the approval, i.e., September 1975.

The reference “F/BV/6028/97” means that the approval (number 6028) was provided by Bureau Veritas under authority of the French government in 1997.

Certification of new containers - Certification, carried out by the Class Societies to satisfy requirements of the CSC, will normally include:
– Factory approval (approval of production facilities for mass production to needed quality)
– Design type approval (review of drawings and specifications and testing of prototype)
– Survey of production units (verification of compliance with approved type during production)
– On line and final inspection (random verification of workmanship, production tests, and final inspection of each individual unit or of units selected at random)

Class Societies will usually place a sticker with their logo on the container door, confirming that they carried out the initial certification of the container at the factory.

The sticker is only a marketing element; it has no function in the approval or maintenance of the container. The all important proof of compliance with the CSC is the Safety Approval Plate.

In-service examinations

While the CSC requires new containers to be approved by a competent authority under governmental agreement, the subsequent maintenance of an approved container in safe condition is the responsibility of the container owner, who may choose between two inspection systems:

(1) The Periodic Examination Scheme (PES) is a system of regular inspections organised by the container owner every 30 months, starting no later than 5 years after the date of manufacture. Following each inspection the month/year of the next inspection is stamped on the Safety Approval Plate. The CSC also allows for the use of stickers coloured in accordance with the year of examination: brown for 1998, blue for 1999, yellow for 2000, red for 2001, black for 2002, green for 2003, brown again for 2004 and so on. Therefore, for containers certified under the PES it is possible to see from the container itself whether it is “within dates”.

(2) The Approved Continuous Examination Program (ACEP). Under this system containers bear a sticker showing the letters ACEP and the identification of the Administration which has granted the approval. The sticker is placed on, or as close as practicable to the Safety Approval Plate.

Containers under ACEP are subject to thorough examinations organised by the owner in connection with major repairs, refurbishments or on/ off-hire interchanges. Such containers are inspected practically every time they are used, but under no circumstance may inspections take place more than 30 months apart. However, the next date of examination cannot be seen from the container itself. A container that has gone astray or missing for some time will therefore not be easily detected as “out of date” and eventually stopped.

The CSC allows governments to control whether containers have a valid Safety Approval Plate and are “in date”. “Out of date” containers and containers which are clearly unsafe may be stopped. They may eventually be allowed to proceed to the place of unloading, but not to be loaded again until examination, repairs and updating have taken place.

Some governments are very lax in enforcing such authority, others may have a system where port officials, stevedores, trade unions, etc., play an active role in reporting badly maintained containers.

Class Societies, other inspection bodies and repair yards can carry out the in-service examination of containers and may be very interested in doing so, but that is not required by the convention.

The examination of an in-service container is only required to be carried out by a person “having such knowledge and experience of containers as will enable him to determine whether it has any defect which could place a person in danger”.

In-service examinations - While the CSC requires new containers to be approved by a competent authority under governmental agreement, the subsequent maintenance of an approved container in safe condition is the responsibility of the container owner, who may choose between two inspection systems:


(1) The Periodic Examination Scheme (PES) is a system of regular inspections organised by the container owner every 30 months, starting no later than 5 years after the date of manufacture. Following each inspection the month/year of the next inspection is stamped on the Safety Approval Plate. The CSC also allows for the use of stickers coloured in accordance with the year of examination: brown for 1998, blue for 1999, yellow for 2000, red for 2001, black for 2002, green for 2003, brown again for 2004 and so
on. Therefore, for containers certified under the PES it is possible to see from the container itself whether it is “within dates”.

(2) The Approved Continuous Examination Program (ACEP). Under this system containers bear a sticker showing the letters ACEP and the identification of the Administration which has granted the approval. The sticker is placed on, or as close as practicable to the Safety Approval Plate. Containers under ACEP are subject to thorough examinations organised by the owner in connection with major repairs, refurbishments or on/ off-hire interchanges. Such containers are inspected practically every time they are used, but under no circumstance may inspections take place more than 30 months apart. However, the next date of examination cannot be seen from the container itself. A container that has gone astray or missing for some time will therefore not be easily detected as “out of date” and eventually stopped.

The CSC allows governments to control whether containers have a valid Safety Approval Plate and are “in date”. “Out of date” containers and containers which are clearly unsafe may be stopped. They may eventually be allowed to proceed to the place of unloading, but not to be loaded again until examination, repairs and updating have taken place.

Some governments are very lax in enforcing such authority, others may have a system where port officials, stevedores, trade unions, etc., play an active role in reporting badly maintained containers.

Class Societies, other inspection bodies and repair yards can carry out the in-service examination of containers and may be very interested in doing so, but that is not required by the convention.

The examination of an in-service container is only required to be carried out by a person “having such knowledge and experience of containers as will enable him to determine whether it has any defect which could place a person in danger”.

Such regulations set forth conditions tank containers must meet to be initially certified and periodically re-certified. It is worth noting that the requirements for tank containers in service resulting from the above regulations clearly exceed those of the CSC.

 In order to meet the requirements of the IMDG Code and CSC tank containers are subject to periodical inspections by a competent, approved authority every 30 months and regularly tested.

Thermal and reefer containers -
In addition to the CSC and ISO standards, the ATP may be applicable to thermal and reefer containers. The ATP has standards to ensure that the equipment is capable of maintaining the required temperature to preserve the quality of foodstuff in transit. For containers with refrigerating equipment, electrical regulations which ensure uniform electric current characteristics, etc., may be applicable. Insulation capability and refrigerating capacity are normally specified in accordance with chosen “statement of values”, purchasers’ specifications which are commonly used.

Swap-bodies - As the standard 20 foot and 40 foot containers do not take maximum advantage of European road regulations, a new type of container, the swap-body, has gained popularity.

 Swap-body containers are 2.5 metres wide, while the ISO standard series 1 containers are only 8 feet (2.438 metres). For instance, swap-bodies have space for two “Europallets” sideways, but these would not fit in a standard container. The swap-body is an efficient transport unit on roads and on short sea passages when carried on the back of a road trailer. In deep-sea crossings, however, it is not suitable for vessels with cell guides for standard 8 foot-wide containers. The swap-body was designed in Europe and 95 per cent of its use is in European trades.

Earlier on swap-bodies were not fully regulated, but separate ISO and CEN9 standards for swap-bodies and swap-tanks are now being developed.

The CSC does not apply to swap-bodies designed for road and rail transportation, if they are without stacking capability and top lift facilities.

Equally, the CSC is not mandatory for swap-bodies transported by sea if carried on a road vehicle or rail wagon. However, the swap-body is subject to the CSC if used in transoceanic services.( Bureau Veritas has established rules for the classification and survey of swap-bodies.)

Offshore containers - The CSC does not apply to offshore containers (containers that are handled in open sea), as such containers have to withstand the most severe conditions and may be subject to different design and testing parameters from those prescribed by the convention.

The IMO has published guidelines for the certification of containers and portable tanks that are transported and handled offshore (Guidelines for the Approval of Containers handled in Open Seas, MSC/ Circular 613. ( Det norske Veritas (DnV) is the only Class Society to have issued rules for offshore containers that fully comply with the IMO guidelines, and the DnV Certification Note No. 2.7-1 is therefore the only established standard available. The rules are applicable to all types of transport units handled offshore, such as boxes, tanks, baskets and skids. Due to heavy wear and frequent repairs, offshore containers are generally required by national authorities to be inspected every year. The majority of offshore containers used in the North Sea are built to DnV’s rules and certified by DnV or other Class Society. The DnV Certification Note has gained such universal acceptance in Norway that it is practically impossible to use an offshore container which is not a “2.7-1 container”. More than 300 different types of offshore containers have been certified.)

 

 

 

 

 
John Samarvira
John Samarvira on Mar 13, 2013
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